When we find ourselves in a situation that feels like a challenge to our authority or egos, there is one question we can ask ourselves that will save us a lot of headaches and heartaches. I’ve been talking about this quite a bit lately, and it can have a profound impact on our lives and relationships. If we use this question, we can entirely avoid many conflicts. The question is: Does it really matter?
We create conflict when we don’t really need to by insisting on having things our own way. It happens all the time! We are human, and we have egos. We have clear ideas about how things should be done. We like to get our own way – and we don’t always need to.
When my children were in middle school, I felt like I was saying no to them all the time. They wanted more freedom, and I felt like they were always challenging me. Refusing them was my default. It felt like we were butting heads all the time. It was exhausting.
After some coaching and communication training, I decided to say yes unless there was a really good reason to say no. Yes became my default. One of the questions that I asked when deciding on my answer was, “Does it really matter if they do this their own way?”
The answer to long hair and clothes from thrift shops was no; it didn’t really matter. I did have the urge to attach notes to them that said, “I have offered to buy them clothes that are not old and ill-fitting,” but I resisted. They wanted to express themselves, and it didn’t really matter. They weren’t in danger, weren’t putting anyone else in danger, and weren’t being disrespectful or unkind. They were just being them. The result was that we got along much better, and they learned that there were good reasons when I said no.
One year, my husband made a New Year’s resolution to let me have my way. He didn’t tell me what he was doing for a while. A funny thing happened on the way to giving me my way: I started reciprocating. We “gave in” on where to eat dinner, how to slice mushrooms, and how to fold t-shirts. It was the best year ever!
We can create positivity in relationships by giving up control whenever possible. I talk about this concept in my leadership workshops. Does it matter if an employee does a process or procedure a new or different way? If whatever it is will still get done in a timely manner, then let him or her do it in their own way. Autonomy is motivating, and our employees are more enthusiastic and motivated when they get to make some decisions – so are our significant others and friends.
We can create more peace for ourselves and others if we just let everyone else do what they want as often as possible. Ask yourself, “Does it matter?” If the answer is no, pat your ego on the head, tell it everything will be alright, and give some power and autonomy away. It will come back to you in surprising ways.
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